Allentown Morning Call
When former President Bill Clinton used the word “if” to describe President Barack Obama’s next term, the crowd gathered outside at Montgomery County Community College screamed, “When!”
“You can say when when you’ve made it happen,” Clinton told them, “because I want you to know what is at stake here.”
On Election Day eve, the Democrats chose to send Obama’s “Secretary of Explaining Things” — a playful nickname Clinton received after his national convention speech in August — to Pennsylvania to motivate the party’s base, as the Republicans eye the state as one they hope will break from tradition and help elect Mitt Romney.
Hours before Clinton arrived at the college near Blue Bell, Romney’s team announced it would make two more campaign stops on Tuesday, and one visit would be to Pittsburgh where the Republicans aim to woo conservative, blue-collar Reagan Democrats.
After ignoring the state for weeks, Romney, who was in Bucks County on Sunday night, will now be in Pennsylvania twice in the crucial, final 48 hours of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Clinton, his voice raspy from dozens of back-to-back campaign events, including three others in Pennsylvania on Monday, implored the shivering supporters to ensure Obama stays in the White House by heralding Obama achievements like the health care law and the auto bailout.
The crowd wasn’t expecting to be standing in the cold all afternoon, but the event had to be moved outside to accommodate the nearly 6,000 people who showed up to hear the former president.
“We’re going to choose hope over fear, we’re going to choose unity over division and we’re going to prove that we are neither as dumb nor as selfish as some people think we are,” Clinton said. He told them that America is best when it works like a community college and all are judged on their merits, not “age or race or gender or sexual orientation or anything else.”
He praised Obama for stepping off the campaign trail after Hurricane Sandy and working with Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, driving home the point that everyone is better off when government and communities work together.
The Democrats’ decision to send in Clinton rather than Obama to defend their turf may signal that they are taking the Romney threat seriously but they don’t see it as critical. There is also the factor that Pennsylvania Democrats chose the former president’s wife, Hillary Clinton, over Obama by nine points in 2008. Some of the loudest cheers for Clinton came when he noted that Obama had selected “one heck of a secretary of state.”
Pat Panzer, 62, of Yardley, Bucks County, was one of the Clinton primary supporters, but as a lifelong Democrat she has since supported Obama. She admitted to being a little worried about a Romney win, and thought the Obama team was wise to send in Clinton as its messenger.
“He just has that charisma and when he talks people do listen, at least the Democrats listen,” she said. “I think he just has that ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is.”
The Republicans were also determined to keep their supporters fired up, sending actor New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to rally Romney supporters Monday night at the campaign’s Lehigh Valley office at the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem.
Giuliani called on the volunteers to do everything possible to get out the vote on Tuesday, and assured them Romney will win the presidency. Delivering Pennsylvania would be a “real kick in the you-know-what,” he said.
Waiting for Giuliani and Voight to arrive, Jim Ehrlich, 29, of Bethlehem said he was encouraged by Romney’s recent poll numbers and excited about the idea of putting an accomplished businessman capable of spurring job growth in the White House.
But John Leister, 61, a retired carpenter from Quakertown, was also feeling optimistic as he stood in the cold waiting to see Clinton. He said he looked forward to a second term with Obama working on issues of funding education and dealing with global warming.
“I’m concerned, but I don’t think it will be a problem,” Leister said of Romney’s newfound attention to Pennsylvania. “I am confident. It will be close, but I think the president will win.”